The significance of voice arose in Russian literature due to Tolstoy

Credit: ©University of Tyumen

Leo Tolstoy was the first Russian writer to make voice a distinctive individual, professional and social feature, claims Oksana Bulgakowa, Professor at the Gutenberg University, Mainz and the School of Advanced of the University of Tyumen.

"Leo Tolstoy taught Russian writers to 'hear' and created a new stereotypical vocabulary," Bulgakowa says. "He gave his characters constant vocal epithets. Tolstoy's voice stereotypes are highly psychological and national, and his class stereotypes are repeated from one novel to another, creating a group identity. For instance, having a gruff voice is a distinctive feature of the lower class – soldiers, peasants, artists. Politicians are shrill as they raise their voices when addressing a large audience. It was Leo Tolstoy who constructed stereotypes of a repulsive voice for bureaucratic authorities and a sympathetic voice for high authorities".

According to the Professor, Tolstoy's vocal stereotyping as a marker of mental state and social role was adopted – possibly subconsciously – by such famous Russian writers as Nikolai Leskov, Yury Olesha and Mikhail Bulgakov, as well as by numerous memoirists. Tolstoy's voice depictions still influence Russian writers today.

"This use of vocal stereotypes forms a code, which creates intersubject space and makes the recognition process easier," summed up the expert.

The full research work was published in the book 'Voice as a Cultural Phenomenon' by Oksana Bulgakowa.


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